A lot has been written about Second Life over the past few days, mostly because it seems marketers are fleeing the popular online community in droves. After a mad rush by large brands to plant their flag in Second Life, folks like CenterNetworks‘ Allen Stern are questioning whether the virtual world really needs a “Ben & Jerry’s Island.”
We spent most of the session on the “Ben & Jerry’s” island. During the session, we were able to fly around, look at a wall of the history of B&J, and chat with other people. Wait, that was one person during the entire 30 minute session. I asked what it cost to create the island and Don nodded when I suggested $50k.
Don also noted that we are only in the first inning of virtual worlds. I agree with his statement. It reminds me a bit of when the Web first started to commercialize. “Who would use the Web to buy insurance” is a statement I heard several times from an executive at an insurance company.
Technovia‘s Ian Batteridge has a similar take, writing that:
. . . the approach that most corporates have taken with Second Life has been the same as they took with the early web “We must have a Second Life presence! Build it and people will come!”
But SL isn’t static media, and that, unfortunately, means that the static media approaches you can take with a web page won’t work. SL isn’t a medium which is suitable for researching information unless that information is best communicated via 3D models. A museum might profit from simply building an island and waiting for people to come – a corporate won’t.
On face value, I agree with both Stern and Batteridge. But they raise an interesting point: If those marketing on Second Life are using prehistoric Web tactics — i.e., stuff from the broadcast or “push” marketing playbook, left over from the old media days – why in the proverbial world might they work in a virtual one? This is uncharted territory to be sure, but wouldn’t product placement and viral promotions among Second Life, er, citizens make more sense than paying $50k to setup shop just to say that you’re
kinda, almost, virtually there?
Ah-ha… the plot thickens! Over at WebInkNow, David Meerman Scott* tells us of a staffing company that’s paying real money to Second Life temps. Might these virtual folks end up staffing the virtual islands, thus creating a real economy? And does virtual ice cream taste any good? Like “astronaut ice cream” perhaps?
For now, I’m skeptical. But there’s a lesson here for all of us: Before pushing a new online presence, make sure you know what success really means in advance. Otherwise, those virtual islands might leave your company a bit… shipwrecked.
[*For those who missed it, don't forget to check out my recent interview with David Meerman Scott on his fantastic book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR.]